An alternative history of the Pacific Coast Conference:
In 1965, John Wooden wins a second straight NCAA title as coach of the UCLA Bruins. What is now the Pac-12 identifies the Bruins as a threat to league parity and evicts UCLA. The Pac-12 becomes a mediocre basketball conference and the punch line of millions of jokes as UCLA continues to win titles as an independent.
An alternative history of the Big Ten:
In 1998, weary of Ohio State dominance, the league evicts the Buckeyes. Michigan becomes the dominant force in the conference, but the conference loses prestige and the league is unable to replicate the pure hatred produced by Michigan and Ohio State.
The league, diminished, is unable to attract Penn State and Nebraska, who instead join with Ohio State in creating a new football conference, called The Bigger Ten. The Big Less-Than-Ten languishes, creating a league so weak that Tim Brewster wins the coach of the year award five times.
An alternative history of the MIAC:
It’s 2003. St. John’s has just won another national title in Division III football, going undefeated in the MIAC.
John Gagliardi has become one of the most beloved figures not only in Minnesota but across the nation.
After the Johnnies return from winning the national title game, the other MIAC schools oust St. John’s from the conference, complaining privately about Gagliardi’s dominance and affinity for running up scores on helpless opponents.
Sadly, we don’t need to imagine an alternative history of the current MIAC. Tuesday, St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso spoke publicly for the first time about the league’s decision to eject the Tommies, and found a way to sound as if he were not taking it personally.
He should take it personally.
The league that withstood decades of excellence and dozens of lopsided beatings from Gagliardi has suddenly become scoreboard-sensitive.
The MIAC Presidents’ Council, in its news release in May, cited “athletic competitive parity in the conference as a primary concern.”
News releases are often crafted to avoid harsh truths, and such was the case with this one. The league isn’t upset with St. Thomas’ women’s track team. The league is tired of getting pounded by Caruso.
The very timing of the move reveals its shortsightedness. Last year, St. Thomas lost two of its last five MIAC games and finished in third.
Even if you view St. Thomas as the Yankees of the MIAC, you should recognize that the Yankees are one of the most compelling reasons to watch pro baseball. They are good enough to hate, and good enough that beating them means something.
The MIAC will be an easier place to win games and a lesser place to be an athlete once St. Thomas is gone.
“Sad,” Caruso said of his feelings. “Disappointed. I don’t think I’m the only one that feels that way. I think a lot of people feel that way.”
Other than those few sentences, Caruso spent the news conference talking up the quality of the humans he coaches. By the time he was done, I was ready to put on a helmet and go beat St. Olaf 97-0.
That was the score when the Tommies thumped the Oles in 2017, and that score, with the Tommies driving for a last-minute touchdown, may have led to the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to this breakup.
“When I was on the other sideline, I never once would have wanted anything other than the opponent’s best,” Caruso said. “I remember being in a game and praying that the other team would give us their best, because there was no way to grow unless we got that.”
The Tommies will probably seek revenge this season. They should make a point while doing so. Once they’re up on the Oles by 10 points, they should punt on first down on every possession.
Losing by 97 may be embarrassing, but virtually everyone in sports has been thusly embarrassed. You get over it.
Being belittled by first-down punts? St. Olaf might vote to remove itself from the MIAC after that one.